Government Acted Reasonably to Protect Biodiversity on Mount Elphinstone

Victoria – In a report released today, the Forest Practices Board found that the Ministry of Forests’ approval of logging on Mount Elphinstone was reasonable and met Forest Practices Code requirements.

The report concludes the investigation of a complaint from two Sunshine Coast residents who were concerned that an approved road and cutblock between Sechelt and Gibsons would eliminate mature forest habitat that supports many species of mushrooms. The residents also complained that road construction and timber harvesting would remove dead trees and stump snags important to small mammals and cavity-nesting birds.

The Mount Elphinstone area has a reputation for its unusual variety and abundance of forest mushrooms. However, since mushrooms grow underground and appear on the surface only when conditions are right, there is no complete inventory of mushrooms. The report notes that the district manager considered all available information about managing and conserving mushroom resources in the complaint area and followed recommendations in Forest Practices Code guidebooks, which advised against managing biodiversity on the basis of individual species. He also consulted a proposed landscape unit plan that rated the complaint area as “low biodiversity emphasis.”

The board found that the district manager considered enough information to determine that the proposed operations would adequately conserve biological diversity, including forest mushroom habitat.

“The operational plans say that wildlife snags will be kept where possible in the cutblock, and stump snags and standing dead trees are plentiful in adjacent areas,” said panel chair John Cuthbert. “The proposed harvesting would have no significant impact on wildlife diversity.”

The report concludes that the approval of those plans was reasonable. The report also notes that the district manager tried to accommodate the complainants’ concerns and to explain his decisions. Offers were made to:

Accelerate the landscape unit planning process to address maintaining biodiversity.
Protect all remaining old-growth trees.
Forgo traditional clearcutting.
Continue to make forestry plans available for public review.
Demonstrate “holistic” forest management in a research area chosen by the complainants.

However, the complainants remained opposed to any forest practices within a 1,500-hectare area.

In the report, the board recommends that the district manager re-examine whether a low biodiversity emphasis is appropriate in the proposed landscape unit that includes the complaint area. The board also recommends that the district manager follow through on his offers to accelerate landscape unit planning and to continue to make operational plans available for public review.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest practices. The board reports to the public and to government about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent.

The board’s main roles, established under the Forest Practices Code, are investigating public complaints, auditing government enforcement of the code, auditing forest practices on public lands, undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues, participating in administrative reviews and appeals, and providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

Bill Cafferata, Chair
Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964

Nicky Cain,

Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964